Can you believe this weather? I'm finding that this working a full-time job is really hindering the time I can be outside walking, jogging, and drawn to sweet shops of all sorts. When I walk to work it's around 35 degrees and, by lunchtime, it's up to the mid 60s. Unreal! Did we just go from winter to spring literally overnight? If so, Mother Nature, you should know that it's fine by me.
Yes yes, I know I am probably snow's #1 fan, but this week's abundance of sunshine has put me in warm weather mode. Naturally, because I said that, it's going to snow next week. Go ahead, blame me.
Alright, enough small talk. Down to business with this macaroni and cheese recipe. If you read the Oscars party post, you caught a glimpse of the best homemade macaroni and cheese ever. Seriously, I'm talking in the history of mac and cheese... since the beginning of time, way before that blue box cop-out that a certain friend can't live without (you know who you are, and yes I just judged you accordingly). Thousands of cooks across the interwebs have said this is the best of the best. This is another recipe I've had saved for, oh, at least six months. After making this, I deserve some kind of slap to the face for not making it sooner.
I'll admit that I don't have much experience with Gruyere cheese, so when I saw it listed in the ingredients, I was a little nervous. The same goes for white cheddar. But wow, the two cheeses and the bechamel sauce made the creamiest and most flavorful mac and cheese I've ever had. The homemade bread crumbs on top added a surprising crunch to the gooey cheese and noodle mixture under them.
Not enough cheese for you? Add a sprinkling of cheese on top of the sauce and noodle mixture before you add the bread crumbs. Oh my gosh. Do yourself a favor and make this immediately. Seriously, people! What are you waiting for? Go! Mush! Now!
Oh, and I have a confession. I never took a final picture of the dish in my apartment. I made it, and then J came over to bake the kugel and I wrapped it up to go to the party. Forgive me, please. (I am certain you will upon tasting this deliciousness.)
Martha Stewart's Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
-serves 12 (or 6-ish if halved)
Note: I halved this recipe and used a 2-quart 8-inch x 11 1/2-inch rectangular glass dish. Per the recipe, it should've made 6 servings. Uhhh, I don't know about you, but this lasted through the Oscars party (granted, smaller servings were taken) and three one person dinners. Anything green side dish will complement this nicely: steamed broccoli, a crunchy spinach and romaine salad, fresh green beans, you name it. Oh, and if you go to the grocery store and see much bigger quantities of the cheese than you need, don't be afraid to ask them to cut you a smaller piece. I've found the cheese counter experts at Market District to be extremely helpful.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn or cut into 1/4" to 1/2" cubes (I used honey wheat bread)
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper [optional - I left this out and no one seemed to care]
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère
1 pound elbow macaroni
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish and set aside. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add bread crumbs and toss to evenly coat. Set aside.
Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet or large pot over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. (Don't worry if small clumps appear, they will go away when the milk is added.) While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes. (Really, no stepping away to check your email here. Constant attention.)
Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere; set the cheese sauce aside.
Fill a large pot with water, salt, and cover and bring to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for 2-3 minutes, no more. (The macaroni will continue to cook and soften in the oven.) Drain the macaroni in a colander and rinse under cold water. Again, drain well and stir macaroni into the cheese sauce you previously set aside.
Pour the mixture into the buttered dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyere, and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, but start checking around 25. Transfer the dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Serve and, remember, sharing is caring.